The Chandler Family Association provides free help to Chandler family history researchers everywhere. You may wonder how our organization, which came from American roots, can provide help with British records. Our correspondents are regularly surprised and delighted by this. The explanation is that, several years ago, the efforts of the Chandler Family Association (CFA) and the Chandler One-Name Study (ONS) were merged. Both organizations had been in existence for more than 20 years, and in that time more than a thousand people had been helped with their research. The ONS began with British records, then went international. The CFA began with American records, then went international. Together, their collection of nearly two million records represents the largest repository of specific Chandler-related information in the world.
Chandler as a surname is derived from the occupation of making and selling candles. Over time the occupation chandler came to encompass businesses that supplied ships with all manner of supplies – rope, sails, and tools in addition to candles. Sometimes chandler was used simply to mean a grocer. Another later specialization was the corn chandler. Because each village and town had men who performed the tasks of making candles (and later other lighting devices), all Chandlers are not related to each other. The Chandler DNA Project has so far identified more than 100 genetically distinct lines around the world.
We are collecting the human stories of the different genetic Chandler families, tracking each from the earliest known ancestor to the later generations who began to spread the Chandler name across the globe. This is a work in progress, but you can read the interesting and varied genetic Chandler family accounts developed and published so far, starting at Genetic Chandler Families.
A great many variations of the Chandler surname have been observed. (See box at right.) We aim to record all occurrences of these names, because they are frequently interchanged with Chandler, either by accident or intent. Please visit our Chandler Name page for more about the history of our surname.
Chandler DNA Project
The Chandler DNA Project has so far identified more than 100 genetically distinct lines around the world. It is highly probable that – at least as far back as the 1200s – the ancestors of all these participants lived in England. The term “England” is used deliberately, in preference to “Britain” or the “United Kingdom,” because the geographic origin of the surname Chandler is firmly in England. We have been wondering how many genetically distinct lines we will ultimately find. A definitive answer can’t be given now, but a general feel can be obtained from the following analysis.
Some Chandlers – a minority – descend from one or more le Chaundelers who migrated to England from Normandy around the year 1200. Most Chandlers, however, descend from people who gained their surname because they were candle-makers in the period 1350 to 1450 when hereditary surnames became common in England. This adoption of surnames was a slow process, taking around 100 years, spreading from the towns into the countryside, and from the south of England to the north. The types of names favoured for adoption varied from area to area – some regions, especially in the west and north of England, tending to prefer locative names (e.g. Hill, Marsh or the name of the village or town where they lived), others favouring occupational names (e.g. Baker, Butcher, Chandler), others selecting patronymic names (e.g. Johnson, Jackson, Richardson) – and the choices made also varied between social classes.
After the ‘Black Death’ plague (about 1350), the population of England had shrunk to 2.5 million. The 1881 Census of England (before significant immigration from Britain’s colonies) shows that Chandlers were 0.0355% of the population. There seems no good reason why this should not be about the same percentage as in 1350, which would yield 888 Chandlers. Assuming a 50/50 split, 444 of these would be male Chandlers. Assuming that possibly 44 of these descend from a single Norman (or several related ones) named le Chaundeler and his (their) descendants during the 150 years they had been in England, that leaves around 400 males who got their surname from the Chandler trade (in areas where that was the practice). Not every candle-maker in England took the Chandler surname; he might become, say, a Johnson (son of John) if that was the regional or personal preference, even though he made candles. Now, the question would be, in all the households where the main breadwinner was a Chandler by trade and chose to give his family the surname Chandler, how many males, of all ages, would have been in each household? Assuming the range was 2 to 4 Chandler men in each family, we are left with 100 to 200 different genetic lines plus the le Chaundeler line. It would probably be at the lower end of that range. The families acquiring the name were not necessarily the nuclear families we know today. They were more likely to be extended families that included miscellaneous ‘family’ members who would also pick up the Chandler surname. Some lines may have since become extinct for lack of male offspring.
Analysis of the names in the 14th Century English Poll Tax returns also suggests that the number of genetically distinct Chandler lines, now spread around the world, is closer to 100 than 200.
The Chandler DNA Project is represented on our website from both the scientific perspective and the human one. Both points of view – scientific and human interest – make fascinating reading:
- Our Chandler DNA Project page, dna.html, links to the official project page and also offers links to definitions and suggestions for reading
- The human stories of the genetically-distinct Chandler families, which have spread across the globe, are being collected and offered as easily-readable narratives at genetic_chandler_families.html.
As an illustration of the quantity and quality of the records in our repository, 20,000 English Chandler marriage details, covering a period of 100 years, have been placed online and searchable on the web at www.one-name.org/archives/chandler.html. However, we have found that the best way to help Chandler researchers is not simply to provide a pool of data and allow people to fish in it. It is better to provide friendly but experienced responses to enquiries, which not only answer questions but also suggest avenues for further research. We ask that enquirers summarise the research they have done so far and their family tree as they know it. This has two benefits: it avoids telling people what they already know, and it gives us the opportunity to validate the research and (gently) correct any false trails.
We are building the CFA Lineages Database (CFALD), which will eventually contain records of all known Chandlers, anywhere, any time. It will identify family relationships – both extended families and genetic families. So far, we have records of around 85,000 people in CFALD. Read more about CFALD.
Of course, we would like you to join our association, because increasing membership makes our volunteer officers feel that their efforts are appreciated, and the modest subscription dues help towards our publication and research costs. But membership is not essential, because we realise that our information, which we handle with due regard to confidentiality, is frequently enhanced with more recent data supplied by our correspondents, so there is a win-win in most circumstances.